Help On the Way For Street Vendors Who Need a License?

It’s starting to seem like all carts all the time these days… Sarah DiGregorio becomes the latest reporter to shine a light on the difficulties facing street vendors these days. Her interesting article in today’s Village Voice focuses on how hard it is to get a license, and the black market that has arisen out of the demand created by a 1979 law restricting the number of licenses available citywide to 3,100. But according to the piece, help might be on the way:

A bill introduced by Council member Charles Barron, which is currently in front of the Committee for Consumer Affairs, would increase the cap on food cart permits to 25,000 and provide for a 5 percent annual increase. Giving all vendors the chance to sell legally would eliminate the black-market system. Bloomberg’s office didn’t respond to a call for comment, but the mayor is thought to be against the bill.

But is the black market for licenses really “the biggest problem in the vending world” today?

Expanding the number of licenses from 3100 to 25,000 would be amazing, but it would be just the first step in what has always been a complex and multifaceted battle. The piece also doesn’t address how the newer trucks and carts might be changing system in immeasurable ways. The vendors who control the streets now, might not be in favor of easier access to licenses if it means more competition from scores of fancier trucks with PR people promoting them.

There’s no question more licenses would help eliminate the black market, but it still wouldn’t solve the biggest problem facing vendors today: finding a legal parking spot where they don’t get harassed by the cops, brick and mortar businesses and, even more importantly, other vendors. In fact, putting 8 times as many trucks and carts on the streets might even make the problem worse- especially if the city doesn’t support the vendors by loosening the laws that make it so difficult to vend (even for those who do have a license.)

Prediction: New Carts & Trucks Are About to See Some Serious Backlash
You Might Be Buying Your Street Meat From a Dead Man


  • Maybe NYC should just issue permits on where food trucks can park. Honestly 8 times as many food trucks on the scene is not going to help anyone. If they increase it to 25000, hell, I will go get one just for the fun of it.

  • I think going from a little over 3,000 to almost 30,000 overnight is overkill.

  • Aren’t some of those licenses par tof the health initiative to accomodate additional fruit and vegatable stands in neighnorhoods that don’t have supermarkets that sell fresh produce? This article says 1,000 but I think it’s being used as a test for more:

  • I say bring it on! All out FOOD WAR! Prices will shoot down! The offerings will be through the roof!

  • 25,000 food carts and New York will look like a 3rd world bazaar. Restaurants will go under

  • Who benefits from competition? The consumer. Bring it on.

  • If the article is correct and the Bloomberg Administration is against it then it is just wishful thinking. What Bloomie doesn’t want (more licenses) the city just won’t get..

  • Additional Licenses coupled with creating more car-free spaces (like shutting down Broadway to traffic) would be a good thing. I like the idea of having outdoor food-malls, and increased competition. eventually when everything settles there should be street vendors serving every niche of the midtown lunch market from dirty-water dogs to high-end pastries to Rutgers grease trucks.

    Brick and mortar stores have a distinct advantage of always being in the same location, indoor seating, and not being harassed by other vendors, and more options in what they can produce. so there’s a place for them as well.

    The only upside I see is that maybe the generic fast food chains would find it harder to compete.

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